TIME Music

See Leonard Cohen’s Life in Pictures

Cohen died Thursday night at the age of 82

Leonard Cohen was the consummate American poet. For starters, he wasn’t actually American at all, but Canadian — he moved to New York in the 1960s to try to make it as a singer — and in the truest American tradition, he took the gaze afforded to the outsider and cast it scrupulously on his new land. “The cradle of the best and of the worst,” he called it once.

He’s been compared to Ginsberg, but Whitman might be more apt: his themes were universal; his psalms were epic. Over a musical career that spanned just under half a century, Cohen — his voice never not gravelly — sang of sex, of God, of sadness, and, yes, of death.

He died Thursday night, at the age of 82. In the New Yorker’s sweeping profile of him, published last month, he said he was “ready to die”; a few days later, at a listening party for his 14th and final album You Want it Dark, he decided out loud that he’d instead stick around until he was 120.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com


Dear TIME Reader,

As a regular visitor to TIME.com, we are sure you enjoy all the great journalism created by our editors and reporters. Great journalism has great value, and it costs money to make it. One of the main ways we cover our costs is through advertising.

The use of software that blocks ads limits our ability to provide you with the journalism you enjoy. Consider turning your Ad Blocker off so that we can continue to provide the world class journalism you have become accustomed to.

The TIME Team